Movement to Unionize Climate Jobs Before the Jobs Exist in Gulf Coast
5k — 10k potential jobs are coming to the Gulf Coast to build wind turbines and harness the energy for an estimated 2 million homes. Texas Climate Jobs Project hosted an event on October 1, 2022, to bring attention to this wave of jobs and to strategize on ensuring these jobs are unionized labor. Normally, the jobs are already there and workers unionize for the jobs they already have. In this case, union organizers are working to make sure these new jobs are union-based as they are being created.
“We are wanting to shape millions of jobs that are coming to the Gulf Coast for offshore wind. Those are construction jobs, as well as operation and maintenance jobs that will be here for many many years. We can still shape the outcome of those jobs.” — Stephanie Corte, campaign director, Texas Climate Jobs Project. You can also listen to the interview with her, here.
Between now and February 2023, Texas Climate Jobs Project is petitioning and working with the federal government to make sure these are union jobs, with safety standards, high pay, and labor protections.
Part of the event was getting handwritten comments from workers to submit as part of the process with working with the federal government. Texas Climate Jobs Project works with a coalition of 25 unions, and at the event union workers from pipe-fitters, plumbers, steelworkers, electricians, seafarers, and apprentices were in attendance.
“Texas is a very low-union density state. It is also the most dangerous state for construction workers. One construction worker dies every three days in Texas and it is also the only state without mandatory workers compensation. These are the things we are trying to fight against…
Those wind energy jobs are going to be the new poverty jobs if we don’t ensure that they are union and do local hire, that they hire folks from here.” — Stephanie
During the event, they discussed how when solar jobs came to Texas, there was no movement to ensure they were union jobs. As a result, people who install solar panels aren’t guaranteed safety training let alone safety standards, don’t have healthcare, and don’t make a living wage. These jobs are good for the environment, but not for the people who are working. Another issue is that while we are trying to transition to sustainable, climate jobs, how can we get fossil fuel unionized labor to transition if they aren’t guaranteed the same benefits?
“Why would you tell someone who is doing pipe fitting work to [transition to sustainable climate jobs]?
So what we’re trying to do is get in the very front of offshore wind to create good jobs, so that we can have union fossil fuel workers transition into.” — Stephanie
The Process & Policy
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is the largest federal climate investment in U.S. history and is putting the country on track to reduce emissions to 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has drafted two leases for the wind energy areas (WEAs) off the coast of Galveston, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana. These leases are what Texas Climate Jobs Project is working to have union protections for these jobs.
The drafted lease will drop soon, and after it’s released, there’s 60 days for public input. The final draft of the lease happens by February 2023, and that’s when we find out if Texas Climate Jobs Project and the coalition of 25 unions were able to make these new jobs unionized.
Getting Workers Into the Jobs
If you, or someone you know, are looking for a good job with safety and good pay, head over to a union hall and sign up for an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship program includes:
- Learning on the job
- Not having any debt
- Family sustaining wages
- Having retirement
“Currently…we need like three times of union workers that exist in the [Gulf Coast] area to fill the jobs. If they don’t have union workers to fill the jobs with, they’re gonna go with non-union workers who will be treated poorly.” — Stephanie